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Starting a Business: License and Permit Checklist

If you are thinking about starting a business, you may need to obtain a number of licenses and permits from federal, state, and local government. Since licensing and permit requirements for small businesses can vary among jurisdictions, it is critical that you contact your state and local government to determine the specific obligations of your new business. Keeping this in mind, below is a quick checklist covering the different federal, state, and local licenses and permits you may need to acquire prior to opening for business:

  • Basic business operation license from the city in which your business will operate, or from the local county (if the business will be operated outside of any city's limits).
  • Federal employer identification number (EIN), also called a tax identification number (required for almost all types of businesses). Note: your business may also need to acquire a similar tax identification number from your state's department of revenue or taxation.
  • Fictitious business name permit (also called "dba" or "doing business as" permit; required for almost all types of businesses).
  • Zoning and land use permits, especially for new manufacturing businesses and certain home-based business operations.
  • Health department permits, especially if your business involves the preparation and/or sale of food.
  • Sales tax license for the selling of almost all products and services.
  • Fire department permits, especially for businesses that will attract large numbers of customers (i.e. nightclubs and bars).
  • Special state-issued business license or permits, if your business will involve the sale of the following types of products:
    • Liquor
    • Lottery tickets
    • Gasoline
    • Firearms
  • Special state-issued occupational / professional licenses, if you and/or your employees will be offering a number of state-regulated services, including:
    • Medical care
    • Auto repair
    • Real estate sales
    • Tax services
    • Insurance sales
    • Cosmetology
    • Legal representation (attorneys)
  • Special federal business license or permits, if your business will involves the following (contact the agency identified in parentheses):
Next Steps
Contact a qualified business attorney to help you
navigate the process of starting a business.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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